Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bad Way for Government to Do Business

State law apparently prevents Douglas County from paying Doug Ewald, the state tax commissioner, a property-tax refund he was granted by the Douglas County Board. In some corners the reaction is: Good! The big shot didn't get a favor after all.

Forget his title and look at the facts.

Ewald protested the valuation of his home. The county admitted that the square footage used to calculate Ewald's valuation was mistakenly high, and agreed to remeasure.

When Ewald signed a settlement agreement ending his right to further protest of the matter, he believed the remeasurement had been done and he was getting the best settlement figure based on the remeasurement.

But the county had not remeasured as promised. When Ewald discovered this and raised it, the answer was: Sorry we didn’t keep our promise, but you lose anyway because you signed the agreement.

Some of us on the county board thought that was wrong and the taxpayer should prevail. But apparently under state law it's the taxpayer's fault for not being nastier and having the wherewithal to see the big picture better than the government that set up and manages the property-tax protest system.

One concern was that if Ewald prevailed, other taxpayers might come forward with similar requests. Indeed, another taxpayer who had read about Ewald’s case came before the county board with a story of being bullied by a protest referee into abandoning his right to challenge his valuation.

I would not relish dozens of taxpayers coming to the county board with similar complaints. But if the county treats a taxpayer badly, the county should rectify it – regardless of the taxpayer’s social or political status, or the value of the property. Government should not ignore or bury such cases. If there a lot of them, then something is wrong with the system.

These aren’t consumers trying to get refunds in the voluntary-purchase, “let the buyer beware” atmosphere of the private sector. This is a mandatory requisition of tax dollars by the government. It is imperative that taxpayers with legitimate complaints be treated fairly. If state law doesn’t allow for that, then state law should be changed accordingly.

1 comment:

OmaSteak said...

Yeah right his position in state government had absolutely nothing to do with granting him a refund and I'm sure all the commissioners do really feel terrible that they can't actually pay it. Don't be surprised when you get that audit notice from the NE Dept of Revenue next April...LOL!!! The whole property assessment/taxation system is broken beyond repair. Either just base values on the last sale or abandon it altogether. Heaven forbid you "stepchildren of the state" in county government hold the assessor responsible for his offices truly awful performance even when you vote to shield him and his minions from direct public contact.